For most part of the Xbox One’s lifecycle in India, the console has been exclusive to Amazon India. Last year, Microsoft announced it would be available at Microsoft Priority Stores - where orders could be placed for it on Amazon India- after Gadgets 360 exclusively reported this. This was followed by allowing consumers to buy it on Flipkart and Snapdeal as well.
And now it appears that the company is finally willing to admit that you don’t have to go online or to a Microsoft Priority Store to buy Xbox One consoles and games.
Department store chain Landmark has been stocking and selling the Xbox One along with Xbox One exclusive games for the better part of two weeks. On confirming this with the retailer, we reached out to Microsoft India for comment and this is what it had to say:
"We periodically evaluate our channel strategy for all our products - our distributor have expanded the retail presence for Xbox One a few months ago to cover physical retail stores,” reads the response from Microsoft India in an email to Gadgets 360.
The reason for the delay in announcing this, sources tell Gadgets 360, was the inability of Microsoft India and bigger offline retailers to reach a middle ground in terms of price protection. Much like smartphones and other consumer electronics, video game consoles are subject to deep discounts from heavily funded e-commerce giants from time to time which makes them low on priority for many a store unless Microsoft India was able to guarantee some form of price parity, more so considering Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal haven’t been able to move substantial Xbox Ones unless they’ve been heavily discounted.
(Also see: Xbox One S Review)
The move to selling offline may just be a ploy to offload excess Xbox One inventory before finally announcing the Xbox One S for India.
“They have approached us to take stock of the Xbox One,” a buyer for an electronics chain tells us. “But they only want to sell us Kinect bundles. To be honest, that’s not what our consumers want.”
It doesn’t help matters that some retailers were asked to take large quantities of the console. In excess of 50 units upfront in some cases.
Since April of this year, Xbox One exclusives such as Quantum Break and Halo 5 have been cropping up at local game stores across the country. This was followed by the console itself that could be purchased off the shelf. Microsoft India though, remained mum on the subject, adamant that it is not available anywhere else but Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and through select Microsoft Priority Stores across India - odd as it would fit the company's timeline of a "few months ago."
Late last year Microsoft India Chairman Bhaskar Pramanik's staunchly defended the company's narrow distribution strategy.
"We found that it actually helped us reduce our costs considerably because Xbox is a product that has a very niche and targeted [audience]," Pramanik said at the time. "The ability that we have when it is done through online is to really understand who is showing interest - what kind of customer, what is the background, the [customer] profile - that helps us with analytics and being a lot more efficient. We found that the online channel is a very efficient way in which to distribute products that may not require mass distribution."
While it might seem that common sense has prevailed what with the Xbox One purchasable for many more people, it may be a case of too little, too late. The PS4 has a near monopoly in terms of visibility and has received its second price drop, making it even more affordable compared to the Xbox One. So far, no reduction in price has been announced for the Xbox One in India despite an international price drop being declared months ago.